Ben Barlow chaired the meetings, in which decisions were made by consensus. The board discussed the possibility of by-law changes after being referred a query from Annual Conference calling for more equality of district representation on the board. The board also talked about how to schedule time for “generative” thinking on larger issues facing the denomination, and received a number of reports among other business.
A board development session was led by Jayne Docherty, who with her husband Roger Foster were process observers at Annual Conference. A class from Bethany Theological Seminary observed the meetings, and led Sunday morning worship on the theme “Jesus moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14, The Message).
A total budget for all Church of the Brethren denominational ministries in 2013 was approved: $8,291,820 in income, $8,270,380 in expense, with an anticipated net income of $21,400. This action included approval of a budget of $5,043,000 for the church’s Core Ministries.
The 2013 budget includes a 2 percent cost of living increase for employees, and a few new items such as a travel scholarship program to encourage congregations who otherwise would not be able to afford a delegate to Annual Conference, and one-time use of $35,000 in bequest funds to start a new congregational support position.
Treasurer LeAnn Wine reminded the board that approval of the annual budget also represented allocations from the Emergency Disaster Fund and the Global Food Crisis Fund to pay for operational expenses of related programs Brethren Disaster Ministries and Global Food Crisis.
The board heard good and bad news in year-to-date results for 2012. Giving to Church of the Brethren ministries is up 17.9 percent compared to the same time last year, and expenses have remained below budget. Overall, giving by individuals is ahead of last year, while giving from congregations is lagging somewhat behind. However, the rate of giving this year still falls under budget expectations by 7.3 percent.
The treasurer noted that in the fall, the year’s financial outcomes are still in flux because of factors such as outstanding income and expenses not yet been booked from large summer events like Annual Conference and workcamps. Also, upcoming seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas typically are times of increased giving to the church.
Wine reported a one-time “write off” of $765,000 in 2012 related to closure of the New Windsor Conference Center, which represents accumulated losses at the conference center since 2008 and will be the final bookkeeping entry. The conference center was located on the campus of the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., and closed in June.
Other ministries at the Brethren Service Center continue, and the staff is actively seeking new uses for facilities formerly filled by the conference center. Wine told the board, “We’re doing our best to keep the buildings functional and safe,” although she added this is a challenge because of maintenance issues that arise in underutilized buildings. One former conference center building that includes the campus kitchen and diningroom--now called the Zigler Hospitality Center--continues to serve volunteers who come to New Windsor to work at the warehouses of Material Resources and SERRV.
In other business
- Approval was given for the naming of a committee to follow up on the issue of more equitable district representation on the board. Time was spent in “table talk” discussion in small groups of related questions such as the possibility of changes to the board’s by-laws.
- The Audit and Investment Committee reported a substantial increase in value in the denomination’s investments since the start of 2012. The committee also requested an additional member with expertise in accounting or investment, perhaps to be appointed from the new board members added next year or recruited as an ad hoc member or consultant from outside the board.
- Work on a spiritual gifts resource from a Brethren perspective, for use in congregations, was presented by Congregational Life Ministries staff Josh Brockway. The project is in process, with Bible studies expected to be available soon and a gifts inventory process to be developed.
- Don Fitzkee, a board member and ordained minister from Manheim, Pa., was named as next chair-elect of the Mission and Ministry Board, as of the conclusion of the 2013 Annual Conference. He will serve two years as chair-elect and then two years as chair. Current chair-elect Becky Ball-Miller begins as chair at the conclusion of the 2013 Conference.
- The Executive Committee reappointed Ken Kreider to another term as one of the Church of the Brethren representatives to the Germantown Trust--a group responsible for the first Brethren meetinghouse in the Americas. Germantown Church of the Brethren meets in the historic building in a neighborhood of Philadelphia. Also under the trust’s care are a parsonage and cemetery.
- Terry Barkley received a staff citation on his resignation as director of the Brethren Historical Library and Archives, effective Oct. 31.
- John Hipps was introduced as director of Donor Relations. He presented an analysis of 10 years of giving to the Church of the Brethren and outlined his expectations for future fundraising to support the work of the denomination.